BRISTOL, England, Friday June 9, 2017 – Experts have long maintained that marijuana leads to the use of hard drugs, and a new study has backed the theory with evidence that teenagers who regularly smoke the herb are 26 times more likely to turn to other drugs by the age of 21.
The research looked at more than 5,000 teenagers and produced ground-breaking evidence that marijuana is a gateway to cocaine, heroin, amphetamines and hallucinogens.
The Bristol University study also found that teenage marijuana smokers are 37 times more likely to be hooked on nicotine and three times more likely to be problem drinkers than non-users of the drug.
Study leader Dr Michelle Taylor said: “It has been argued that cannabis acts as a gateway to other drug use. However, historically the evidence has been inconsistent.
“The most important findings from this study are that one in five adolescents follow a pattern of occasional or regular cannabis use and that those individuals are more likely to be tobacco dependent, have harmful levels of alcohol consumption or use other illicit drugs in early adulthood.”
Dr Taylor noted that while the research neither supported nor refuted arguments for altering the legal status of cannabis use: “This study and others do, however, lend support to public health strategies and interventions that aim to reduce cannabis exposure in young people.”
Evidence for the survey, which was published in the Journal of Epidemiology & Community Health, was gathered from a long-term survey of the lives of young people around Bristol – the Avon Longitudinal Study of Parents and Children.
It examined 5,315 teenagers between the ages of 13 and 18, one in five of whom used marijuana.
The report said: “After taking account of other influential factors, those who used cannabis in their teens were at greater risk of problematic substance misuse by the age of 21.
“Teens who regularly used cannabis were 37 times more likely to be nicotine dependent and three times more likely to have a harmful drinking pattern than non-users by the time they were 21. And they were 26 times more likely to use other illicit drugs.”
It also noted that both those who used marijuana occasionally early in adolescence and those who started using it much later during the teenage years were at elevated risk.
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